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In 1982, Author Stephen King, and Director George A. Romero collaborated on a feature-film tribute to the controversial EC comics of the 1950s. Told through five jolting tales of terror, Creepshow has become a celebrated horror classic over the past three decades. With an all-star cast and groundbreaking special effects by genre legend Tom Savini, Creepshow stands as a horrific and hilarious tribute to the stories that helped influence (and corrupt) a generation of writers and filmmakers. Now, the tales behind the creation of this chilling masterpiece can finally be told! (From Synapse’s official synopsis)

 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow
While attending Chicago’s Flashback Weekend convention in 2008 (or maybe it was 2009?), I came across a man selling copies of the official R2 UK DVD release of George A. Romero’s Creepshow. I noticed that the two-disc collection contained significantly more features than the barebones US disc from Warner Bros. and asked the man what he knew about the feature-length retrospective documentary, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow. Much to my surprise, he told me that he, Michael Felsher (who I now know is the head of Red Shirt Pictures), was the guy that made the documentary and that he was unable to sell WB on the prospect of adding it to the film’s North American Blu-ray debut. The Universal DVD (which was both R2 locked and PAL standard) was the only way that fans could see his work. Thanks in part to a successful Indiegogo campaign and the efforts of Synapse Films, Just Desserts is finally available in North America – not just as a special feature, but as a standalone Blu-ray release.

Just Desserts doesn’t break with retrospective documentary conventions or do anything outrageously creative with the format and that’s a-okay. Its structural simplicity, which covers the behind-the-scenes story from soup to nuts, helps to focus the narrative and tell the whole story in a relatively brief runtime. Things begin with an abridged history of EC Comics, Romero, and Stephen King’s earliest attempts at collaboration, specifically Salem’s Lot (which was adapted for television by Tobe Hooper in 1979) and The Stand (which was adapted for television by Mick Gariss in 1994). Then, Felsher breaks production down piece-by-piece – casting, production design/cinematography, shooting on set and location, make-up effects, roach-wrangling, animation, editing, music, release, and legacy. The interview subjects include most of the pertinent participants, such as Romero, producer Richard P. Rubinstein, SFX artist Tom Savini, editor Pasquale Buba, composer/first AD John Harrison, animator Rick Catizone, and actors Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Bingo O’Malley, Ed Harris (which is a big surprise), and Marty Schiff. Stephen King is probably the only living person missing from the interview pool that could’ve offered vital perspective on the project, but there’s plenty of information still available in his absence.

 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow

Video


I can’t find specs, but all of Just Desserts’ interview footage appears to have been shot with digital HD cameras. It also features vibrant, comic book-inspired illustrations/animation, HD scanned behind-the-scenes photos, and plenty of HD footage from Creepshow itself. Despite the volume of image types and the comparative visual inconsistency of similar documentaries, this 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer is surprisingly consistent. The clarity varies very little from interview to interview, even though the lighting schemes differ (Romero’s home is bright and sunny, Savini’s workshop is spooky, et cetera). Colour quality is extremely vivid, in keeping with Creepshow’s comic book origins, particularly shots from the film itself and the aforementioned illustrated/animated inserts. Hue separation is tight (much tighter than my DVD copy) and black levels are deep. Some interviews feature noisy/bandy backgrounds (John Harrison’s footage, in particular) and the archive clips, taken from Savini’s video footage and outtake reels, are beset with analogue tape artefacts.

Audio


Just Desserts is presented in its original stereo and uncompressed DTS-HD. Like most documentaries, this one is centered around dialogue, which is perfectly clear and, like the video, pretty consistent even between the different environments. The quality takes an obvious and understandable dip when it comes to outtakes and Savini’s home videos, because the audio is compressed and damaged by time. The scenes from the film are crisp and feature the only real sound effects, which are few and far between. The musical score runs with relative regularity throughout the film and include both familiar public domain tunes alongside electronic cues from Harrison’s score.

 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow

Extras


Just Desserts did appear on Second Sight’s 2013 Blu-ray release, so readers with region free players could technically import an HD version that includes the movie, but it wouldn’t carry all of Synapse’s additional and largely exclusive features:
  • Commentary with director/editor Michael Felsher – Felsher opens the commentary by mentioning that he’s usually acting as moderator on commentary tracks, so the experience is strange to him. He then gets right into discussing his career, beginning with his work on the early Anchor Bay website and extending through the creation of Red Shirt Productions. He discusses meeting Romero while working on a behind-the-scenes featurette for Diary of the Dead and explains the process of producing Just Desserts on a limited budget. This track includes additional information about Creepshow, but is actually most valuable for its more autobiographical moments. Felsher’s experiences are interesting in their own right, especially for those of us that care about DVD/Blu-ray supplemental material, but there are also how-to aspects of the commentary that may help future-Felshers to develop a skillset.
  • Commentary with actor John Amplas, property master Bruce Alan Miller, and make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci – The second track is made up of audio interviews that Felsher conducted with cast & crew members that weren’t available when the documentary was being made. There’s plenty of good stuff here and minimal overlap, though it is completely non-screen-specific. Felsher says that a version of this track appears on the Second Sight Blu-ray, but that he has re-edited it for the Synapse release.
  • Creepshow Days (8:00, HD) – Director of Photography Michael Gornick, who was not included as an interview subject in the documentary proper, gets a chance to tell his story.
  • Behind The Screams (26:30, HD version of SD footage) – A raw compilation of on-set/behind-the-scenes video from Tom Savini. This featurette is the one piece of overlap with the Second Sight Blu-ray/Universal DVD.
  • Extended Interview Segments (23:50, HD) – Extra interviews with Romero, Savini, and comic book artist Bernie Wrightson. There aren’t any integral additions, here, but there is more in-depth discussion on some subject matter covered in the final film.
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (15:00, HD) – An episode of the series in which host Sean Clark visits Creepshow’s locations as they are today.
  • Vintage Evening Magazine Segment (7:30, HD version of SD footage) – 1982 footage from a TV ‘magazine’ shot on the set of the film.
  • Behind-the-scenes Creepshow photo gallery.
  • Scream Greats Volume One: Tom Savini, Master of Horror Effects (52:50, SD) – I had assumed, based on the title, that this would be a brief featurette, but it is a relatively well-produced (for the ‘80s video market), nearly feature-length documentary from director Damon Santostefano. It includes loads of gory footage from Savini’s late ‘70s through mid ‘80s output (both from the set and finished product) and interviews with cohorts and Fangoria staff. In addition, there is an option to watch the doc with commentary with Savini himself.


 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow

Overall


Just Desserts is solid and informative entertainment. North American Creepshow fans should rejoice at the prospect of finally having some supplemental material for their barebones Warner Bros. Blu-rays. Even those fans that imported the UK Blu-ray/DVD and already have a copy of Just Desserts in their collection should be happy with the additional content available with this set, including additional interviews, commentaries, and a nearly hour-long documentary about special effects genius Tom Savini.

 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow

 Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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